When I began in animal rescue, we relied on Polaroid pictures of homeless animals glued in a book, and owning a shelter pet gave you zero bragging rights; today you are just one click away from being able to see thousands of adoptable Utah animals online and owning a rescue pet is something many take great pride in, as well they should. No More Homeless Pets in Utah has helped pave the way to bring the plight of homeless animals to the forefront, and we work tirelessly to fulfill our mission "To end the euthanasia of cats and dogs in Utah and to promote humane alternatives for feral cats." We began this battle in 2000, and indeed it is a battle on so many levels - at that time more than 45,000 cats and dogs were being killed in Utah shelters every year.
Historically killing animals as a means to curtail their populations was the norm in America and most municipalities ran shelters which mandated they take in any stray animal from their area and euthanize the ones which didn't get adopted. These shelters still exist and yet we are seeing a change in the way which many municipalities handle stray animals. For instance, you used to only hear the phrases, Animal Control, now many shelters are called Animal Care and Control or Animal Services. Society sees that killing animals as a means to control their populations is no longer a "necessary evil" but simply unnecessary in light of progressive life-saving alternatives. No More Homeless Pets in Utah has worked tirelessly to develop and implement such life-saving measures and we emphasize partnering with local governments, shelters, and other non-profit organizations in coalition projects so that some day we will save them all. Over 5 million cats and dogs are killed every year in the US, over 35,000 in Utah last year. I know this killing will end before I retire, and since I'm talking in terms of Polaroid pictures, retirement isn't too far away. O.K., to be more specific in the next 20 years.
And as I write "20 years" it seems all too tragic, daunting. For those amazing people who work in the trenches saving these animals, one critter at a time, celebrating those saved, and mourning those lost....these are the true pioneers of this movement, the people willing to face the day-to-day reality so that today some, and some day all, will be saved. I cannot say enough about these unsung heroes, the kennel worker who works late so that every animal can be posted online; the shelter director who implements a new way of doing things; the city official willing to change archaic ordinances; the volunteer who gives up their weekend to scoop poop; the staffer who cries at night but shows up the next day anyway because they KNOW they are making a difference; these are the heroes of this movement.
There are days that I am bitter - it seems so simple, the answer to this problem........If you want to know the answer to pet overpopulation just A.S.K.
A= Adopt from a shelter or a rescue group (petfinder.com) do not buy from a breeder or pet store,
S=Spay your pet (every animal unspayed animals contributes to this tragedy, even if you find homes for the babies...it is the concept called supply and demand), and
K= Keep your pet for its lifetime (pets are living creatures and will likely pose some challenges along the way...and like children, with a little effort and love most challenges can be overcome).
Even on the bitter days, I am truly grateful to be a part of this amazing movement. I am humbled by the people who surround me everyday - my co-workers, volunteers, shelter workers, donors, business partners, government officials, and pet-owners who contribute on so many levels to this vision of a day when no animal will have to die simply because it is labeled "surplus".
I have been criticized for "caring more about the plight of animals more than the plight of people" and after 20 years I can wholeheartedly say that my work, No More Homeless Pets work, helps people just as much as it helps animals. Every animal saved gives a human the chance to experience the wonder of the human-animal bond. Every super adoption not only saves hundreds of lives it proves to those in the trenches that we CAN save lives on a level never before dreamed of. Our Trap/Neuter/Return or Free Fix services provides people greatly needed services so that they can responsibly care for and save animals. And for those who don't like animals, well we help those people too...we reduce the numbers of animals roaming the streets, we provide low-cost vaccinations which help promote public health and safety, and we work with shelters and members of the public to provide effective, humane animal deterrents to keep animals away from where they aren't wanted. Our TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return program for feral cats) program's motto is "Whether you Love or Loathe cats, we can help".
Together let's save them all!